Real estate developer Supertech has been asked to refund Rs 1 crore with 10 per cent annual interest to homebuyers by the Consumer Commission for failing to hand over possession of a villa in the company's project, Up Country in Yamuna Expressway Industrial Development Area. The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) had held that a consumer cannot be made to suffer for any delay in the issuance of Occupancy Certificate to the builder due to some deviations or deficiencies in the project.
A couple had booked a residential villa in Supertech's Up Country project in February 2015 and had paid around Rs 1 crore. As per clause 1 of the allotment letter, the possession was to be delivered to the couple by March 2015 though a grace period of six months was also available to Supertech which could be invoked in case the possession was delayed due to unforeseen circumstances. The grievance of the couple is that the possession has not even been offered to them despite they having already paid Rs.1,00,42,955/- to Supertech. The company had assured possession within a month but failed to do so in the next two years. The couple then approached the Commission in 2017 for a refund of the entire amount.
The complaint was resisted by Supertech primarily on the grounds that:
(i) The land on which the apartments were to be constructed was acquired by Yamuna Expressway Industrial Development Authority and allotted to them but the acquisition was challenged by the land owners by way of Writ Petitions filed in Allahabad High Court and the farmers whose land had been acquired did not allow the construction to progress;
(ii) National Green Tribunal had prohibited the use of ground water for construction purposes;
(iii) The supply of raw material and labour etc. was totally disrupted due to strikes/agitation at the site and nearby vicinity of the project by the farmers whose lands were acquired by Noida/Greater Noida Authority.
To this, the NCDRC relied on its own decision dated April 16, 2019 in STUC Awasiya Grahak Kalyaan Association Vs. Supertech Ltd., where all these grounds were considered and rejected by this Commission. The Commission said that no order of the NGT, restraining builders of Yamuna Expressway Industrial Development Area from extracting ground water for construction purposes has been placed on record. It noted that the NGT's restriction was for construction projects in Noida and Greater Noida while the instant project was in YEIDA and said, "in case, there was an order restraining Supertech from extracting ground water for construction purposes, it was for company/builder to arrange water for construction purposes from alternative sources and the flat buyers cannot be made to suffer on account of such an order, if any."
In the present case, the allotment letter stipulating delivery of possession by March 2015 was issued by Supertech on 20.02.2015. The order by National Green Tribunal prohibiting use of ground water for construction purposes had been passed more than two years before the said letter was issued. In fact, the booking itself was made by the homebuyers on 12.09.2013, much after the said order had been passed by the National Green Tribunal. Even the order by Allahabad High Court on the Writ Petitions challenging the acquisition of land had been passed on 21.10.2011, about two years before the booking was made by the homebuyers. Therefore, the aforesaid orders being very much in the knowledge of the company/builder at the time the booking was expected as well as at the time the allotment letter was issued in February 2015, it cannot be said that the company/builder could not complete the construction on account of the aforesaid factors.
It was urged by the counsel of Supertech that they had submitted the completion drawings on 15.02.2015. However, Commission said, if this is so, that would mean that the construction had been completed by them by that date but the requisite Completion Certificate/Occupancy Certificate has not been issued, as far as the allotted villa is concerned. Therefore, the grounds given for the delay in construction become irrelevant in this case.
The Commission rejected the all pleas of the Supertech and asked it to refund Rs 1 crore to the couple, along with the interest. A bench of Justice V K Jain held that if the Occupancy Certificate has not been granted to the Supertech in respect of the villa allotted to the homebuyers despite the completion drawings having been submitted way back on February 15, 2015 as is stated by its counsel, the inevitable inference is that there are some deviations/deficiencies in the project on account of which the requisite Occupancy Certificate in respect of the allotted villa has not been issued. The homebuyers cannot be made to suffer for such an act of the company/builder and cannot be made to wait indefinitely for the allotted villa," said the commission.
The Commission ordered Supertech to repay the couple, along with compensation in the form of 10 per cent interest per annum from the date of each payment till the date of refund as well as a sum of Rs 25,000 as cost of litigation.